Heating the Polity Ahead of Presidential Election

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Jonathan

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Supporters and candidates of the leading Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress appear bent on destroying the credibility of each other before the presidential polls that both of them are struggling to win at all costs

By Olu Ojewale  |  Feb. 9, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE deal was to get all the presidential candidates to campaign in a way that would not heat the polity or cause violence. But since the non-violence agreement was signed in Abuja on January 14, the two main political parties appear to have done nothing to advance a non-violence campaign. Invariably, this has exposed the frailty of the agreement as a mere formality and non-binding peace accord.

Through the use of incisive statements, wild allegations, inflammatory advertisements, radio jingles, and documentary programmes, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC, the two leading political parties have made it a daily ritual to castigate each other.

For any Nigerian political observer, it is not out of place for a presidential candidate to get support at home. But the likes of Mujahideen Dokubo-Asari, Victor Ebikabowei, aka Boyloaf, and Government Ekpudomenowei (alias Tompolo), all former Niger Delta militants, took their endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking a re-election, to a new height when they threatened to declare war on Nigeria if their kinsman is not re-elected on February 14. Speaking at meeting held at the Bayelsa State Government House, Yenagoa, on Saturday, January 24, Dokubo-Asari, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF, called for an end to what he described as the intimidation of the Ijaw by other Nigerians. “For every Goliath, God created a David. For every Pharaoh, there is a Moses. We are going to war. Every one of you should go and fortify yourself,” he said.

Buhari
Buhari

In the same vein, Ebikabowei said at the meeting that if the North succeeded in regaining power on February 14, the people of the Niger Delta would take their oil back. Referring to alleged stoning of the presidential convoy in the North, he declared: “Keep grudges and sentiments apart. We are ready to match them bumper to bumper.” The former militants made their threats in the presence of Governor Seriake Dickson, Ekpudomenowei, Kingsley Kuku, special adviser to the president on Niger Delta Affairs, and Udengs Eradiri, president-general, the Ijaw Youth Council without any recrimination.

Irked by the audacity, Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.), a former chief of Army Staff, on Wednesday, January 28, called for arrest and prosecution of Dokubo-Asari and co-travellers in the militant group. Danjuma, who described the threat as “unguarded and reckless,” however, warned that “miscreants” should not be allowed to hold the nation to ransom.

“You should arrest Asari Dokubo, Tompolo, Boyloaf and other Niger Delta militants for making reckless statements, which in any way does not mean keeping Nigeria as one entity. They create a war situation. Those were reckless statements coming from irresponsible individuals; they should be condemned and arrested immediately,” he said while answering reporters’ questions in Kano during the inauguration of the Senate building of the North West University, Kano. The institution was established by the Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso administration.

He added: “In a situation like this, the issue of entrenching peace in the country is what is needed most. We should not allow some miscreants to hold us to ransom. Nigeria belongs to everybody and we must do everything possible to safeguard her unity.” He also appealed to politicians to stop making pronouncements capable of overheating the polity by dwelling more on issues instead of personalities. “Once politicians base their campaigns on issues not personalities and avoid anything capable of causing disaffection, I am confident that we would have foul-free elections,” Danjuma said.

Despite the former minister of defence outburst, neither the Presidency nor security apparatus have deemed it fit to, at least, call the former errant militants to order.

In a similar show of partisanship, a group of northern pro-democracy activists under the aegis of the Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice, NCDJ, in a letter dated January 25, has reported General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the government of the United States, asking for assistance to repatriate him to the Hague to face International Court of Justice for his alleged role in the post-election violence of 2011.

In the letter addressed to John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, and copied to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, the group stated that the assistance of the US had become imperative in order to help Nigeria stem the tide of election violence in the 2015 election. The letter with headline ‘The role of General Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 post-election violence in Nigeria,’ read in part:  “The NCDJ instituted legal action for human rights violation against Buhari before the ICC at the Hague. It is in view of the ample video, audio and documented evidence to support a prosecution against him at our disposal that we urge the United States government to facilitate his hand over to the International Criminal Court as there is incontrovertible evidence against him which supersedes that of (Laurent) Bagbo of Ivory Coast and Uhuru Kenyata of Kenya.”

The NCDJ letter was signed by Ibrahim Baba, secretary, Research and Documentation, Yunana Shubkau, publicity secretary and Umar Farouk, secretary-general.

Danjuma
Danjuma

A week earlier, Goran Sluiter, a human rights lawyer and leading counsel to the group, said at press conference in Abuja, that the group was ready to prosecute Buhari. The development was said to have forced the APC presidential candidate to cancel his planned trip to the US. It was reported that the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS, which invited the general to the US, had cancelled the programme because the Centre could not agree with him on a new date. But there were fears in the APC circles that the US might act upon the petition by the NCDJ.

Indeed, in the recent campaigns by the ruling PDP have been on the personality of Buhari whose human rights record as military head of state continues to haunt him.  For instance, in one of the advertisements in the newspapers, General Ibrahim Babangida, former head of state, was quoted as saying about his predecessor thus: “When in December 1983, the former military leadership, headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, assumed the reins of government, its accession was heralded in the history of this country. With the nation at the mercy of political misdirection and on the brink of economic collapse, a new sense of hope was created in the minds of every Nigerian. Since January 1984, however, we have witnessed a systematic denigration of that hope. It was stated then that mismanagement of political leadership and a general deterioration in the standard of living which had subjected the common man to intolerable suffering, were the reasons for the intervention…. Regrettably, it turned out that Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance. Efforts to make him understand that a diverse polity like Nigerian required recognition and appreciation of differences in both cultural and individual perceptions, only served to aggravate these attitudes….”

On the raging controversy over Buhari’s school certificate result, the controversy, it appears will not die anytime soon. Chukwunweike Okafor, an Abuja-based lawyer, on Monday, January 26, asked a federal high court in Abuja to disqualify the presidential candidate of the APC over the controversy surrounding his secondary school credentials. Okafor claimed that Buhari had failed to prove that he has the minimum educational qualification to run for the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

In an originating summons filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, Okafor asked the court to disqualify Buhari from contesting the presidential election because he allegedly gave false information in his INEC Form CF 001 and attached an affidavit dated November 24, 2014, where he stated that his educational qualification was the West African School Certificate, WASC, and that it was in the custody of the secretary, Military Board, which was denied by the Nigerian Army.

He contended that the statement of result issued by Government Secondary School, Katsina, belonging to one Mohamed Buhari was not the same as Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.

The plaintiff also averred that the time prescribed in the Electoral Act for the submission of personal particulars of candidates and their documents or their substitution closed on December 30, 2014, long before the APC candidate produced his purported certificate.

The lawyer listed Buhari, the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the three respondents, respectively.

Dokubo-Asari
Dokubo-Asari

As if taking a cue from that, the PDP presidential campaign council, on Wednesday, January 28, again faulted declaration by Buhari that his certificates were now in the custody of the INEC. Femi Fani-Kayode, director of media and publicity, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, at a news conference in Abuja, expressed consternation over Buhari’s claim that the INEC was now in possession of his certificates. Fani-Kayode said that Buhari’s remarks on Tuesday con­tradicted his earlier claim in an affida­vit he swore to that the Military Board was in possession of his certificates. He said: “Yesterday, General Muhammadu Buhari made a shocking and belated disclosure that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has his docu­ments. He has not been specific about the documents he is referring to, but it is very clear that this is yet another squalid attempt to give the Nigerian people the impression that INEC has his certificates. If this is true, it represents a somer­sault from his original position which was that INEC has his affidavit and it once again reveals General Buhari for what he is. With this latest antic, General Buhari is obviously trying to smuggle a newly-acquired certificate into INEC through the backdoor,” he noted.

Fani-Kayode said if Buhari’s claim was true, the INEC must have contra­vened the Electoral Act, noting that there was a stipulated time limit for receipt of the personal particulars of candidates for election. His statement went further: “If this is true and if the INEC allows such a thing to happen, it would put a seri­ous question mark on its impartiality and credibility. It would mean that it has collected his newly-acquired cer­tificate, 40 days outside the stipulation of the law. We say this because Section 31(3) of the Electoral Act says the INEC “shall within seven days of the receipt of the personal particulars of the candidate, publish same in the constituency. It appears as if the more our al­leged “Mr. Incorruptible” attempts to wash himself clean, the more he digs deeper in the pit of falsehood and perjury.”

He queried why Nigerians should listen to the INEC director of Legal Services, who had earlier, in response to numerous inquiries after December 18, 2014, told the press that commission had published all that presidential candidates submitted which in the case of Buhari were just FORM CF001 (no certificate attached) and affidavit which was court papers and not personal document.

“It will be interesting to know at which point the affidavit transmuted into additional documents or when additional documents were provided to the INEC in line with law as noted above,” he said.

Indeed, speaking while hosting members of the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, which adopted him as the party’s presidential candidate, Buhari dismissed litigation over his eligibility for next month’s presidential election, as he counselled the litigants to listen to the clarification of Ibrahim Bawa, INEC Legal Adviser, Buhari had said: “Well, I am not surprised. This is Nigeria. If people are serious about this issue, they ought to have listened to the Legal Adviser of the INEC. This is the first time INEC by law, has got those documents and they said they have got them. So, anybody who has a different view should go to court. So, let them remain there.”

With all the twists and turns in the mudslinging, it appears that the APC candidate either has nothing personal to charge President Jonathan with or he has just decided not to play dirty politics. Hence, the APC and its candidate appear to focus on issues and Jonathan’s report card in the past four years. On Wednesday, January 28, the APC South-East, declared that President Jonathan had failed the nation and should not be given another chance. Osita Okechukwu, spokesman of the APC in the zone, made the remark as the APC campaign train in Enugu State stopped over at 9th Mile Corner Ngwo, a suburb of Enugu.

Babangida
Babangida

Okechukwu, who is also a member of the APC presidential campaign council, told thousands of party supporters and members of the community that according to the school system when someone failed, “you fail out and there is no room to repeat.” He said that rule should be retained in the case of Jonathan, whom he said, had failed and should not be allowed to repeat.

“He came to Enugu shortly before the 2011 presidential elections and promised to revamp Enugu Coal and four years down the line he failed to even commence,” Okechukwu said, adding:  “Can we truly answer ‘Coal City’ without coal?  We are sitting on golden treasure, which the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, deliberately abandoned for 16 years.”

He assured that as president, Buhari would revamp the huge Enugu coal deposits, generate electricity via coal, export coal and build other ancillary factories, which in all would generate one million jobs in the South-East in four years. He said that was Buhari’s message for his people and that his word was his bond.

Going a little bit further he recalled the newspaper article that Charles Soludo, former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, wrote on Monday, January 26, in which he scored the Jonathan administration economy policy as bad. “My Dear Compatriots, the core ingredient of election in liberal democracy is referendum on the performance of the incumbent and our illustrious son and eminent Professor Charles Soludo has after careful examination awarded F9 to President Jonathan on the management of the economy, for failing to provide millions of Nigerians with jobs, for creating poverty in the midst of plenty and crashing the Naira.

“Don’t forget that before then, revered Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka also awarded President Jonathan same F9; the former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme awarded him same F9 and even, Senator Ken Nnamani also awarded him same F9.  It is only ‘food is ready’ politicians like Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu who abandon projects that want a failed president to repeat,” he said. Okechukwu, therefore, advised the people of the South-East not sink with a sinking ship of the PDP.

When the PDP campaign ship berth in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Wednesday, January 28, it suffered an embarrassing low turn-out, thereby handling the opposition the much needed ammunition to hit the ruling party. Reacting to the rally held at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in the Rivers State capital, the APC, ruling party in the state, alleged that the rally suffered from poor attendance, thus confirming the unpopularity of Jonathan and the PDP in the state. “To say that President Jonathan and his PDP wasted their time in coming to Rivers State to campaign is to state the obvious. The half-empty stadium despite the renting of supporters from Bayelsa, Delta, Abia and Akwa Ibom states speaks volumes about Jonathan’s unpopularity among our people,” Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, Rivers APC chairman, said.

Ikanya in a statement issued on Thursday, January 29, in Port Harcourt, said the party was happy that: “Jonathan during the failed rally personally confirmed that he has done nothing for Rivers State and her people as evidenced by his monumental neglect of the state.”

He also quoted Jonathan as saying: “I should be congratulated and commended for not developing Rivers and Bayelsa states to avoid being accused of being biased in allocating developments to the two states but if we are re-elected we will now concentrate development in these two states.”

The statement, Ikanya said had shown the neglect was “a deliberate act by the President Jonathan administration not only to under-develop Rivers State but also to ensure that the State was stagnated by allocating our oil wells to Bayelsa, Abia and other neighbouring states.”

Soludo
Soludo

Ikanya, therefore, asked the president to stop dreaming about re-election “as it will never happen.” The party said: “We want to assure you, Mr. President, that you will never be re-elected because you have failed woefully and do not deserve any re-election. After all that Rivers State and her people did for you, you could be so mean not to site one single project in Rivers State. We have no reason for whatsoever to recommend you to any section of this country for re-election… We can now better understand Governor Chibuike Amaechi, who has at various fora challenged President Jonathan to mention one single development project he has brought to Rivers State.”

The statement added: “If Mr. President and his managers knew that Chief Wike does not exist in Rivers State politically except in the minds of some expired and hungry politicians looking for food to fill their stomach and that he does not have what it takes to mobilise enough people to fill a 50,000-seater stadium in the capacity of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium they would have accepted the Liberation Stadium as counselled by Governor Amaechi to see if they could have used the 15,000 supporters hired from some neighbouring states to fill the stadium than embarrassing the president by making him to address an empty stadium in a presidential rally.”

Reacting to campaigns of calumny, many Nigerians have said that it appeared as if the PDP had become desperate and was all out to demolish Buhari to ensure that he does not get elected. Lekan Bolarinwa, a public commentator, said that no matter the level of campaigns or assaults on individuals would make him not vote for a change. He, however, appealed to the PDP and APC to stop heating the polity.

Onyekachi Ubani, lawyer and former chairman of Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Ikeja branch, said the PDP campaigns would make Buhari more popular because he had not been involved in character assassination as his PDP counterpart. As for the lawyer who had gone to court, he said the man did not read constitution very well because “the constitution does not say you must have a certificate. What you need is evidence that you went to secondary and once it has become obvious that Buhari went to secondary school and has been cleared for this election, only court can stop him. In this case, the lawyer who went to court is just wasting his time because he has no locus standi,” he said.

Apparently concerned about the situation in the country and the recent campaign some individuals for the postponement of elections, the US sent John Kerry, US secretary of state, to Nigeria on Sunday, January 25. After Jonathan had met with the US envoy, he assured the nation that elections would hold as scheduled. “I emphasised to Secretary Kerry that I am deeply committed to ensuring that our forthcoming election is free, fair, and credible. It is especially critical that all political parties abide by the Abuja Accord, which commits each  to non-violence before, during, and after the election. “I made it absolutely clear that the May 29th handover date is sacrosanct,” Jonathan said.

Kerry met with Jonathan at the State House in Marina, Lagos, before meeting with Buhari at the US Consulate House in Ikoyi. At the meeting Kerry also cautioned against violence. He warned that any politician who organised a widespread “systematic violence” against civilian population would be held accountable, including placing them on diplomatic sanction.

Before his departure from Nigeria, Kerry reportedly said: “I came here today to deliver a very simple message and I have met with both major candidates to underscore that international community has paid a very close attention into this election and we are deeply committed to working with Nigerians with the hope that they will have an election that is free of violence and capable of instilling confidence in the future.”

But whether Nigerian politicians who have heating the polity would adhere to their pledge is another matter.

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